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Saturday, September 30, 2006

The MN GOP Can't Get Anything Right

In Lori Sturdevant's October 1st column in the Star Tribune she is all full of righteous indignation about a campaign brochure prepared by the state GOP party to attack first term DFL State Representative Melissa Hortman in 47B.

One of the points on the brochure is that Rep. Hortman voted 'no to giving you a vote on the stadium tax'.


What actually happened is that Rep. Hortman supported a floor amendment that would have required a referendum. When that failed, she still supported the final bill with no referendum.

Ms. Sturdevant doesn't have the intellectual honesty to point out the problem with Rep. Hortman's defense - she gets a pass on the John Kerry-esque 'I voted against it before I voted for it'.

What I also find amazing is that the state GOP would use stadium votes for attacks, when the governor made a media event out of signing the exact same bill.


The Misleading Drama Queen

Here's a recent post from the Drama Queen:

"Brodkorb is a nice guy." Source: Star Tribune, September 30, 2006

The quote is from Tim Obrien's roundup, Bloghouse. The actual story is quite different.

Mudslinger for hire

Michael Brodkorb on occasion has identified himself on his blog, Minnesota Democrats Exposed (3), as a part-time paid consultant for the Kennedy campaign.

Robin Marty at Minnesota Monitor (4) called into question just how part-time Brodkorb is, pointing out that Brodkorb makes $4,583 a month working for the Kennedy campaign. And despite Brodkorb's claim when he announced the gig that readers of his blog "may notice a small drop in [his] coverage of the U.S. Senate race," Marty discovered Brodkorb's posts on the Senate race have increased dramatically since he started drawing a paycheck.

In the same vein, MN Publius (5) reported that an FEC filing showed that Brodkorb accepted $5,500 from Sixth District U.S. House candidate Michele Bachmann on Aug. 8 for "research."

Brodkorb claims that his blog "is not created, endorsed, sponsored, or authorized by any political party, candidate, or candidate's committee. It's all me and always will be," but these revelations cast serious doubt on that claim.

He wrote on his disclosure page, "[M]y ethics are not governed by legal interpretations. This is why I have gone through the unprecedented efforts of creating a disclosure page on my blog."

A couple of problems with that statement:

  • His disclosure page (which was announced Aug. 31 but posted only Tuesday) doesn't disclose anything. Nothing about his salary from Kennedy, the payment from Bachmann, his prior work as the research director for the Minnesota Republican Party, being the chair of the Senate District 38 Republican Party. It's nothing more than a sanctimonious screed aimed at those who exposed his ties to campaigns.

  • He only disclosed his identity because of a defamation lawsuit. He blogged anonymously from July 2004 to January 2006.

  • As Blog of the Moderate Left (6) pointed out, Brodkorb didn't disclose the work he did for Bachmann; MN Publius did.

  • Disclosure pages are anything but "unprecedented."

Brodkorb is a nice guy. But he's not credible on this issue. He needs to be upfront about what his blog is.

And, in light of these facts, to argue that it is anything but a paid advertisement for the GOP is disingenuous at best, and, at worst, a lie. Caesar's wife should be above suspicion.

If Brodkorb is going to make a career out of "exposing Democrats" by twisting their words and concocting half-truths, then he'd best have his house in order.

In my opinion, Reporters should always be independently fact checking blog posts. I personally believe that it is a conflict of interest for Michael Brodkorb to be acting as both a blog "reporting" on the Kennedy/Klobuchar race, and also acting as Kennedy's press consultant. When it's about other races, he's a source without those conflicts of interests. Reporters in my view, should be more assertive on this point.

While I was quite surprised (I hadn't been checking FEC reports carefully enough) about Brodkorb's research for the Bachmann campaign, I don't think he can be accused of conflict of interest there.

I think all too often reporters and bloggers get dazzled by having "inside information." I think MacBeth says it well:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Update: Flash has a good roundup on this. He has relabeled his link to the Drama Queen's site to "Paid Kennedy Press Consultant".

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Yes, I was the one interviewed on MPR

Audio linked here.

With polls showing many voters don't know who he is, more debates offer Hutchinson a free way to improve his name recognition. But while Pawlenty and Hatch are two of the state's best known politicians, neither one has a clear lead in the race. The candidates are well aware of their neck-and-neck standing in the polls, which may explain why Pawlenty - a popular incumbent - feels the need to go on the offensive against Hatch's campaign promises, and why Hatch continues to pound away at Pawlenty's record.

As they do so, they run the risk of alienating undecided voters like Eva Young of Minneapolis, who said Hutchinson won the debate in her mind because he answered the questions...

"I thought Hutchinson made more sense on the transportation issue, and he was more honest about it. If you're going to do this, you should do it by a gas tax rather than by MVST and hoping it's going to pass," she said.

MVST is the nickname for the proposed transportation funding amendment. Young says she didn't like the way Hatch kept talking about rural Minnesota to a Minneapolis audience, and she's upset with Pawlenty over his support for a new Twins stadium.

But undecided voters were clearly the minority at the U of M debate. Many audience members wore red "Pawlenty for governor" T-shirts, or buttons supporting Hatch or Hutchinson's Team Minnesota. The debate was interrupted twice by audience members yelling at the candidates, until being escorted out by security. It was sponsored by Debate Minnesota, a group holding more than a dozen debates in several races across the state, and the University of Minnesota's Department of Communication Studies. The candidates for governor will debate again next week in Rochester.

Hutchinson and Pawlenty supporters were out in force. Mike Hatch's campaign didn't make any effort to get supporters out.

I think it's very interesting that part of Hatch's concern about MVST, is that there is too much money going to transit. So will Mike Hatch be a "we don't want no choo choo trains" democrat in the Governor's Office?

Desperate Spinning from Chuck Darrell

A new St. Paul Pioneer Press/MPR poll measured current support for a constitutional amendment to define marriage in Minnesota.

Here are is an excerpt from the story on the MPR website.

A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage did not make it on the ballot in Minnesota this year. If it had, the poll results suggests the vote could have been close. Forty- seven percent oppose an amendment, 40 percent support it and 13 percent are undecided.

Chuck Darrell of Minnesota for Marriage, a group supporting a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, doesn't agree with the new poll numbers. He says polling done by his group last year found support at 61 percent. Darrell said the MPR/Pioneer Press poll questions are confusing.

"When you put words like 'never' in there, and then you start putting different options, name off different things that it may or may not, and get away from a simple question of do you want to define marriage as between one man and and one woman, it starts to clouds things," Darrell said. "And that causes some of the numbers to shift."

These numbers are a big shift from a couple of years ago. I wonder if Michele Bachmann will update her soundbytes on public support for a constitutional amendment.

Poor Chuck Darrell - the facts are just not going his way. If he needs further evidence that his work is irrelevant, he should revisit those primary election results from September 12th, particularly in Brainerd and Willmar Senate districts.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Peter Hutchinson clearly won the debate

Governor Pawlenty of Tax Increases came in second, and the Angry Hatchet man brought up the rear. Hatch's performance was abysmal. Why was he talking the rural Minnesota message when speaking to a Minneapolis audience?

Peter Hutchinson was the only one who articulated a good transportation plan. The other two were supporting MVST. Hatch opposes a gas tax because rural areas don't trust that the money won't all go to the urban areas.

I'm sure this will be on MPR tomorrow afternoon. I encourage all of you to listen to it.

Rich Stanek vs Juan Lopez for Sheriff

There's an excellent thread on the Minneapolis Issues list. I've said before, Stanek's history of lawsuits for police brutality make me have serious concerns about his candidacy. I don't know much about Juan Lopez.

Check it out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More Proof the MN GOP is Lost on the Prairie

A Pioneer Press/MPR poll shows woeful results for Jeff Johnson, a well-qualified Republican candidate for Attorney General. He has been officially campaigning since February 2005. Considering the DFL didn't settle on a candidate until September 12th, this contest could have been a chip shot. But no, the state party continues to foam at the mouth over the US Senate race, which is all but a done deal.

Excerpts from the PiPress story:

The general election is only 42 days away, but the major candidates for Minnesota attorney general are still unknowns to about half the voters, a new poll shows.

Lori Swanson, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate, has a significant lead — 37 percent to 24 percent — over Republican Jeff Johnson among voters who have made up their minds. But more than one-third of the voters questioned in the poll were undecided on whom they favor among the four attorney general candidates.

On the name recognition issue, 49 percent of the voters questioned said they did not recognize Swanson's name. Fifty-six percent didn't recognize Johnson's.


"Half the voters really don't know who they are," Coker said of Swanson and Johnson. "Both candidates, I think, are getting votes from people who are simply voting for them because of the party label."


Despite the high number of undecided voters, Coker said Swanson's lead over Johnson was significant. "A 13-point lead is nothing to ignore," he said.

In the poll, Swanson led Johnson in all subsets of voters — men, women, metro and outstate residents, Democrats, independents — except Republicans. And she was favored by 6 percent of the poll respondents who identified themselves as Republican. By comparison, only 1 percent of DFL voters said they would vote for Johnson.

The only rational theory I can come up with is that Karl Rove and the Washington gang don't care about the Minnesota AG race, and Ron Carey is doing as he's told.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Governor's Debate

Wednesday September 27
7:00 PM
Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota.

Governor Tim Pawlenty of Tax Increases (Republican)
Angry Man Attorney General Mike Hatch (DFL)
Simple Sloganeer Peter Hutchinson (IP)

I'd encourage people to come to this debate with tough questions for the candidates. Here are some suggested questions to ask. Please add yours in the comments.

Will you sign or veto a bill that would provide a sales tax exemption for local units of government. The University of Minnesota and non-profits do not pay sales tax. Local units of government do. Hennepin County pays 28 million a year in sales tax. Minneapolis would not need LGA, if the city had a sales tax exemption - the city is paying more into the State than the state gives back in LGA?

Would you sign or or veto a bill that would allow municipalities to offer domestic partner benefits? Do you believe that the appropriate role for legislators is to micromanage the HR policies of the local units of government in Minneapolis?

What is your transportation plan if MVST does NOT pass?

If MVST passes, will you cut social services, education or both - or will you raise taxes to fund these things?

Would you have signed or vetoed the Stadium bill that Governor Pawlenty of Tax increases signed, that taxed Hennepin County residents exclusively (through indirect increase in property taxes, and utility bill increases that affect only Hennepin County residents and businesses)?

When Michael Brodkorb Gets Good, He's Good

He's discovered a little slush fund for Mike Hatch. Since Brodkorb is the Drama Queen, there have been regular breathless updates on this one.

I think we've got it

More bad poll results are reported for Rep. Mark Kennedy. In the latest St. Paul PiPress/MPR poll, he's trailing Amy Klobuchar 52 to 37.

I heard Pat Shortridge, Kennedy's campaign manager, assure MPR listeners this morning that they expected to be trailing in September, but as the Kennedy campaign continues to educate voters about Mark's position on the issues, and how that contrasts with Amy Klobuchar, the momentum will swing their way.

Nice try, Mr. Shortridge.

My take on this is that Minnesota has a very clear understanding of where Mark Kennedy stands on the issues of current interest. He has a six-year record in the US House, which he rarely talks about. He gets very defensive when his record of voting with the White House over 90% of the time is mentioned. Mark's attempts to position himself as a reformer or agent of change have become hysterically funny.

Voters are going on record with their dislike of his campaign tactics. Even if they don't live in the 6th District, they remember the TV commercials his campaign ran in 2004 in his race against Patty Wetterling. The nagging, pathetic attacks on Amy Klobuchar are demonstrating a pattern of dirty campaigning.

Any day now, I expect a breathless report about how Amy Klobuchar lets the quackgrass grow wild in her front yard, or how she doesn't keep her sidewalk shoveled. Ron Carey will do a press conference to demand a response, and MDE will post hourly about the concern over the non-response.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

City Pages Reminds Us of Ralph Kiffmeyer's Dildo Bill


Maybe Ralph Kiffmeyer was right about dildos

For his one term of service in the Minnesota House of Representatives, Ralph Kiffmeyer is remembered chiefly for a single thing: his failed effort to outlaw the sale of sex toys such as dildos and vibrators. (Oh, to live in Mississippi!) To this day, the mere mention of the name "Ralph Kiffmeyer" leads to sneering in certain libertine circles. And to this day, his name comes up with some regularity because his wife, Mary, is Minnesota's current secretary of state. (I made mention of Ralph in an article about Mrs. Kiffmeyer here).

Now it turns out that Mr. Kiffmeyer's long-ago moral crusade might have had inadvertant merit. At least, if you're inclined to believe the folks at Greenpeace Netherlands. The organization recently issued a consumer alert that warns sex toy fanciers of health risks arising from exposure to high levels of certain plasticisers found in dildos, butt plugs and vibrators.

Too bad there isn't any video of those hearings.

Mark H adds:

One rainy night last week I pulled 'Annie Hall' off of the video shelf and gave it another look.

I liked when Alvy (Woody Allen) was stopping strangers on the street to ask them for advice on how to keep a relationship going.

One older gentleman informed Alvy that he and his wife/partner used a large egg....

I wonder what Mr. Kiffmeyer would have said.

Will Transportation be Better Under Mike Hatch than Tim Pawlenty?

According to the Strib, Mike Hatch is on record against the gas tax.

Lori Sturdevant has a thoughtful oped that addresses this issue.

Conspicuous in its absence from the big blue Minnesota map the House DFL Caucus filled with campaign buzzwords is any term synonymous with "transportation."

When I called the omission to the attention of caucus leader Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, she had a ready explanation:

"We're waiting to see what the voters do with MVST."

MVST (say "M-vest" to sound like a Capitol groupie) is the state's motor vehicle sales tax, the 6.5 percent tacked onto the price of every vehicle sold in Minnesota.

It's the tax in question on the one and only constitutional amendment proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot -- the wordy one that would dedicate all MVST revenue to transportation, and at least two-fifths of it to mass transit, by 2011. That would mean moving $300 million now being spent on the usual stuff -- education, nursing home care and the rest -- to transportation. It doesn't specify how the hole that results in the general fund will be filled.

"MVST becomes either the anchor piece" of a package of new transportation investments, "or we have to start again," Kelliher said. The omission from the issues list "doesn't mean we don't think transportation is an important issue. We know it is."

I will be voting NO on MVST and urge everyone else to do the same. Legislators are elected to make these decisions, and they should be making this decision.

Still, Kelliher's response was encouraging, compared with the growls that emanated from some DFLers after last year's big-as-a-bus transportation bill died. After Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill that most DFLers and 10 brave House Republicans backed, some DFL legislators folded their arms, sat back and said, "Fine, Governor. We passed our plan to get traffic moving. You killed it. We're done."

And they were, for 2006. Transportation funding measures went nowhere in the even-year session.

But now there are two candidates for governor who are not keen on raising the road-specific gasoline tax -- and one of them is DFLer Mike Hatch. That might be another reason for a new House DFL leader to play it cool and coy on transportation funding promises.

"Our caucus recognizes it's important to pass legislation that the governor -- a governor -- will sign," Kelliher said.

A lot of legislative candidates, in both parties, are tap-dancing on transportation this fall -- or so it seemed to the moderator (me) at last Wednesday's 19-candidate forum in Burnsville on the issue, sponsored by the I-35W Solutions Alliance.

Only a few of the 10 incumbent Republicans there flat-out rejected the idea of raising the gas tax, to bite off a bigger piece of the billion-dollar-per-year price tag of holding the line on highway congestion and safety. One Republican -- Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington -- has already voted for a 10-cent boost in the state's 20-cent tax. Another, Sen. Claire Robling of Jordan, said plainly that she could go for a 7-cent boost, phased in over a few years.

But two years ago, most DFL candidates stood boldly for a gas tax increase. This time around, the DFLers, all nine of them challengers, were less specific.

If that means that some of the partisan starch has been washed out of this issue, that's positive. The way transportation divides legislators on metro/rural lines makes accord hard enough to achieve. The partisan colors that transportation -- especially transit -- acquired in the late 1990s has made legislative action ever since resemble traffic flow through Spaghetti Junction at rush hour.

Why is it that the DFLers are going to be better on transportation?

Sturdevant ends with:

About one thing, the candidates in Burnsville were very clear: They want the MVST dedication to pass. That's so, despite a few principled qualms about the damage dedicated taxes do to both the ideal of representative government and the rest of the state budget.

I've got those qualms too. But unless Minnesota's infrastructure decline is arrested soon, a broader decline will follow. If legislators insist on asking the voters, "Captain, may I?" before doing their duty on transportation, voters should reply, "Yes, you may! And don't ask again. Get busy!"

Voters should reply, NO. I elected you to make these decisions. Make them. Don't do this through the constitution.

It's very clear that if people are really concerned about this issue, Mike Hatch won't make the tough decisions designed to prevent a Crosstown project problem. Mike Hatch's "we'll find savings by audits" isn't an answer to everything.

DFLers in Edina Endorse a Candidate Who Says He Won't Criminalize the Gay "Lifestyle"

Al Franken did a huge fundraiser for Andrew Borene. MN Publius was raving about him regularly. He was supposed to be the rising star of the DFL, but then he flamed out very spectacularly.

It's interesting that in Edina, the DFL would endorse someone who holds views about gays that are much more reactionary than his constituents.

Socially Progressive-I believe in the fundamental American tenets of tolerance and liberty. I do not need to agree with everyone's point of view or lifestyle choices, but I will not criminalize it either. I believe that all Americans should receive equal civil rights and liberties. I fought for freedom in the deserts of Iraq, it is now time to fight for freedom in the legislatures of America.

Borene also opposed the University of Minnesota Law school challenging the Solomon amendment.

The incumbent in that district, Geoff Michel, is too conservative on social issues for the district. He has a Green Party opponent, Julie Risser. Risser has a blog, where you can read more about her in her own words. There is no way for the DFL to get someone on the ballot. Borene's campaign funds went straight to Amy Klobuchar.